07 7 / 2013

Before I head off on my next journey, I would like to finish this blog with a list of New Zealand firsts. Here we go:

Bought a car

Lived outside the USA

Self-Catering (no dining hall food)

Traveling alone

Saw a glacier

Watched a rockfall

Saw a fjord

Climbed a volcano (and descended into a volcanic crater!)

Took the city bus

Rode a public bus (long distance)

Legal alcohol purchase

Ordered a drink at a bar

Went on a road trip

Planned and organized multiple trips

Participated in major field studies

Went scuba diving

Ate raw fish

Gave a legitimate scientific presentation

Hiked above the snowline

Hiked above the treeline

Stayed in a backpackers hut

White water kayaking

White water rafting


Saw glowworms

Stayed in a hostel

Went to the Southern hemisphere

Saw an iceberg

Drank unfiltered untreated water

Drank a ginger beer

Drank hard cider

Lived independently

Steepest and longest hike ever

Almost experienced a hurricane

Cliff jumping

Jumped off a bridge

Hit something with my car*

Drove on the left

Wrestled a baby calf

Bottle-fed a baby calf

Petted a sheep

Learned how to spin wool

*Driving on the left, it was difficult to tell how close to the left side of the road I was, so I scratched the side of the car on a one-lane bridge while on the road trip. No serious damage.

Happy Adventuring!

03 7 / 2013

Upon arriving at the Auckland airport, I found a luggage scale to more accurately weigh my bags to avoid paying for an overweight bag. I had to shuffle a few things around, and ended up with both of my checked bags at exactly the maximum weight. I also emptied everything from my carry-on suitcase into my carry-on backpack in order to get my suitcase under 7 kg. This meant that my backpack was nearly 10 kg, but I hoped that they didn’t notice.

I stood in the check in line for an hour and a half. The people at the counter were taking forever, and I was getting slightly concerned about missing my flight, even though I arrived at the airport almost 3 hours in advance. They charged me 200 bucks to check my second bag, which is totally ridiculous and frustrating, but unavoidable. Fortunately, I went through security very quickly and arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before boarding began. I was randomly selected for an extra security check by the US government along the way. I passed.

I had an aisle seat in the middle of the plane. The beginning of the flight had lots of turbulence, so I had to wait a while for my dinner. I watched Ice Age 2 on my TV. After eating, I knocked myself out with my anxiety meds. I don’t remember much else from the flight. I watched We Bought a Zoo right before landing, and I got to feeling quite queasy while we were taxiing around the Los Angeles Airport. I think this was due to turbulence during landing, dehydration, and exhaustion. I got up out of my seat to spew in the airplane toilet, much to the flight attendant’s dislike. I was not supposed to be out of my seat. He gave me a few sick bags and a large bottle of water and instructed me to fasten my seat belt. The sick bags were no longer needed, but I very much appreciated the bottle of water.

Moving through LAX was relatively smooth. I collected my bags, went through customs, re-checked my bags, and made my way to the domestic terminal where I had to go through security again and find my gate. I arrived at my gate almost 3 hours before my flight was to take off, so I wandered to find something palatable to eat, since I lost most of my Air New Zealand breakfast down the toilet. I found a margarita pizza and an orange. It did the job.

The flight to Chicago felt very long. I was excited to see that each seat had its own personal TV, only to learn that you had to pay to watch it. I dozed for most of the flight due to extreme exhaustion. Once in Chicago, I collected my checked bags and met my parents, who had driven to Chicago to pick me up (Thanks Mom and Dad!). My flight didn’t land until 12:08 am, so we drove to a hotel in Naperville, and I completely collapsed.

The next morning, I forced myself to get out of bed at 9:30 am (which was 2:30 am in New Zealand, please realize). We got into the car and headed home. Four hours later, I was sitting in my house, petting my dogs, and listening to a thunderstorm. Welcome home.

03 7 / 2013

After returning to Auckland, I spent my last few days in New Zealand with Bea.

On our first day, we took the ferry to Rangitoto Island and climbed to the top.

Rangitoto is a recently active volcano. It last erupted 600 years ago. The island is covered with jagged black basalt and lush green new growth.

There were great views of Auckland City at the top.

The wildlife was very used to human presence on the island. These cheeky birds were very friendly, and begged the tourists for a snack.

This one even jumped onto a woman’s hand to snack on her snickers bar.

There was a viewpoint into the old crater, now covered in vegetation. It was very difficult to capture the depth and size of the crater on a camera.

On Sunday, we drove to the Waitakeri range just west of Auckland to check out some Kauri trees and go to a black sand beach.

It rained a bit while we were looking at the Kauri trees, and lovely bright rainbow appeared.

Muriwai Beach was the site where the movie “The Piano” was filmed.

The West Coast beaches are known for their challenging surfing. It was extremely calm relative to normal when we were there.

The black sand is a remnant of the volcanic history of the area. It also has magnetic characteristics and has been investigated as a possible iron ore source.

A few hours before I traveled to the Auckland Airport, Bea and I climbed Mt. Eden, an extinct volcano near her house. There were great views of the city, again.

Mt. Eden also has a very large crater.

After coming down the mountain, we loaded my bags into the car and I headed off to the airport for a long journey home.

29 6 / 2013

Julia and I woke up to a frosty Sunday morning, and headed to Jucy rentals to pick up our campervan. We were in a bit of a rush to get to Picton in time to catch 2:25 ferry to Wellington, so we drove back to the Ilam apartments and quickly loaded our suitcases into the back of the van. We were very excited to be driving a car with a functional stereo system that we could plug our ipods into! Just north of Christchurch, Julia had to slam on the brakes because of this:


Typical New Zealand.

As we drove around the Kaikoura region, there was snow on the hilltops, a remnant of the storm that had just passed through.


We also stopped again at the magical stream of baby seals, much to both of our delights.


We arrived right on time to get in line to load onto the ferry, and were informed that our ferry booking was for Monday instead of Sunday. In all of the confusion of changing our booking date, our ferry got booked for the wrong date. We got put in the standby line, in hopes that someone wouldn’t show up for the ferry and we could take their place. 2:25 pm came and went, and the line still wasn’t moving at all. 2:45 pm passed, still nothing. Finally we wandered to ask the car in front of us if they knew what was going on. Apparently the ferry was delayed an hour, and nobody told us. We were annoyed to be sitting waiting for a ferry for 2 hours that we might not even be able to get on.

Eventually, the ferry came, the line started moving, and they waved us on to the boat! We got lucky. The Sunday afternoon ferry was the first sailing in three days, since they were all cancelled during the storm.

I waved goodbye to the South Island as we left Picton.


The ride through the Marlborough Sounds was gorgeous.


Unfortunately, the sea was quite rough in the Cook Strait after we left the sounds, so I had to spend the majority of the trip out in the cold fresh air near the back of the boat to avoid getting too queasy. I did watch a beautiful sunset over the sounds, however.


In Wellington, we met a friend of Julia’s, and she took us out to cheap Malaysian cuisine for dinner. We were quite hungry, so it was good. She took us to a car park by the sea, apparently the best place in Wellington to sleep. It had a public toilet only a minutes walk away, definitely a plus. There was a no camping sign, but she assured us that nobody patrolled the area and we would be fine. Just as we had settled down to sleep, we saw flashing lights out our window. A very nice parking warden politely told us that we were not allowed to camp there, but we could park anywhere on any random residential street. We were quite surprised that this was legal, and also that he didn’t give us a ticket in the first place. He had a ticket in his hand as he was talking to us, but he never gave it to us. We drove along and found a place to park on the street, unfortunately not as near to the public toilet as the first place.

In the morning, we drove back to the car park by the toilet to make breakfast. We were loving the Jucy campervan. It came with everything, (minus a toilet): a bed that converted to a table and chairs for the day, pillows, a duvet, a fridge, plates and silverware, a sink with a large water tank, gas cooker, pots and pans, curtains to cover the windows, and plenty of storage space.



Unfortunately, none of the storage pockets were quite big enough for my extra-large bags. We had to stuff them into the front seat at night.


Here’s our lovely dinner table:


…and flattened out into a bed for sleeping.


Since it was winter, we used our sleeping bags in addition to the duvet that came with the van.

Here’s a view of the hillside in Wellington that we woke up to:


Since the weather was looking so lovely, we decided to climb Mt. Victoria for a view of the city.


We took the long walk up, even though there was a car park at the top that we could have driven to. There were great views of the city.


From there, we headed back down, and then to Te Papa, the famous Wellington museum. It was HUGE. We spent the entire afternoon there, and felt quite a lot of information overload by the end. We didn’t even make it to the top two floors.

We spent another night on a random residential street, then drove to the public toilet again in the morning. After we finished our oatmeal, we headed northeast towards the Wairapa region to look around and check out a winery. We stopped at a random park along the way, and happened upon the set for Rivendell, from the Lord of the Rings.




Here is proof that I’m taller than a hobbit:


Apparently there are mountains northeast of Wellington, which we drove through along the way.


We stopped in Martinborough, famous for its wineries. We went to Palliser Estate for a bit of wine tasting. Both of us felt very inexperienced in terms of wine-tasting, but it was enjoyable*.



We found little bits of entertainment along the way, but eventually ended up at a DOC campsite in Tongariro National Park. We arrived in the dark, so we couldn’t see the volcanoes looming over us, but we did see the snow on the ground. We bundled up nice and warm to sleep in our campervan for the night.

In the morning, we headed to Whakapapa (ffah-kuh-papa) Village to ask about trail conditions at the visitor’s center. Conditions were good, and the weather was looking fantastic, so we headed onto the Tama Lakes track, which climbs to two crater lakes in between Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu.

The beginning of the track meandered through a lovely forest. It was a winter wonderland. Also very very icy.


And then arrived at Taranaki Falls, which cascaded over an old lava flow.


We then followed the track above the treeline. Ruapehu followed us.


Here is the Lower Tama Lake:


And here we are at the end! (Ngauruhoe in the background)


And another view of Ruapehu on the other side:


Best headstand photo yet:


We then followed the track back down.


Ngauruhoe followed us.


Once we arrived back at Whakapapa Village, we got back in the car and headed towards Taupo. In Taupo. we searched for an obscure place to park our van, with no success. We pulled into a holiday park, and were informed that it was legal to park anywhere along the harbor for free. We were very surprised, but there were no signs that prohibited camping there, so we assumed that it was fine. And it was, as far as we know. There was no ticket on our car in the morning.

Julia did the Taupo bungee jump that morning. I was not interested in that much of an adrenaline rush, and I may have never made it off of the platform.

She had a great time though, and got her head dunked in the river at the bottom!

We wandered around the lakefront for a while, then stopped at a glass-blowing studio and watched the artists at work. Glass-blowing is an amazing art, very fast-paced. Molten glass has the consistency of honey, so they had to work very quickly before it melted away or solidified.

Finally, we headed up to Auckland. I dropped my oversized bags at Bea’s house, and then we returned the campervan, right on time. Bea’s dad came to pick me up, and then I said goodbye to Julia. Only a few more days in New Zealand! Can’t believe it.

(*Note: we were very careful about our wine tasting/alcohol consumption followed by driving. We only had a very small amount of wine, probably equal to less than one drink.)

22 6 / 2013

…but the weather is a bit interesting here. Needless to say, they do not know how to deal with snow and ice here. Roads are closed, ferry sailings are being cancelled, I got an email from the University assuring that exams would still take place despite the possibility of snow. Key word: possibility. It snowed very briefly here this morning when I woke up, but all melted as soon as it hit the ground.

Our original ferry booking from the South Island to the North Island on Sunday morning got cancelled, so Julia and I are picking up our campervan on Sunday morning instead, and taking the ferry either on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning.

I can’t even enjoy myself here because it’s too cold, wet, and nasty outside to go anywhere. Going to check out the museum tomorrow, will be an adventure to the bus stop.

20 6 / 2013

Things are winding down. Friends are leaving, just sold our car (!!!), I’m starting to think about packing up.. This afternoon I take my final final exam.

Last night I celebrated my 21st birthday with two good friends. We went to a local bar, I got a free mulled cider with rum, and there was live music. It was lovely.

The weather here is looking very threatening here. There is supposedly a huge storm rolling in. On Saturday, Julia and I are picking up a Jucy campervan, which we are driving to Auckland for free! A lot of tourists who come here fly into Auckland, drive to Christchurch, and then fly home from Christchurch, so lots of rental car companies need people to return their cars to Auckland. Jucy is paying for the rental, the car ferry, and a whole tank of gas for us. We just have to pay petrol and insurance, which is a really good deal for us, also considering we won’t need to rent accommodation since it’s a campervan and has a double bed in the back. I am very excited! Hopefully the weather will cooperate, otherwise we might leave on Sunday instead.

16 6 / 2013

Either this fruit is completely flavorless, or it wasn’t ripe yet.

09 6 / 2013

This week I traveled to a lovely small farm called Tally Ho in the central Otago region of New Zealand with the WWOOF organization. I got off of the InterCity bus at Raes Junction-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-New-Zealand, and was immediately greeted with a hug from Barb, my host for the week. We drove to Tally Ho in her old creaky Toyota van, and I was introduced to their two Great Danes, Chloe and Pluto, along with Joe, a border collie puppy.

Pluto is very friendly.

This is Joe.

Over the week, I was provided with a bed and meals in exchange for helping out with chores on the farm. The food was delicious (and local—from their own animals and garden!) and Barb and Stuart were incredibly generous and welcoming. My main chores involved feeding the zoo (ducks, pigs, chickens, miniature horses, puppy, baby calf).

Pig food = food scraps + rotten milk

One of the miniature horses enjoyed the leftover pig food.

On Tuesday, I was joined by another WWOOFer, Andrea from Austria. She was spending several months traveling around Australia and New Zealand.

Andrea makes friends with the miniature horses.

Twice a day, we fed the baby calf together.



The sheep ran away from me when I tried to photograph them.

But Andrea got a nice shot of them.

The scenery was beautiful.

The cows were very curious about why I was wandering around on their turf.

It was quite cold in the mornings, especially since the house wasn’t insulated or heated.

The main business of Tally Ho was wool carding, or the process of turning raw wool shearings into roving with a carding machine.

Clean wool was placed onto this conveyor belt.

Inside the machine, it was picked, fluffed, aligned, and emerged as wool roving, ready for spinning.

Then the balling machine turned the roving into a product that could be sold to customers.

Cat watched over the wool shed and kept the mice out.

He was difficult to photograph because he was in constant motion.

Barb taught me how to spin with these lovely spinning wheels!

A wonderful first WWOOFing experience. I look forward to WWOOFing again in the future!

31 5 / 2013

Classes ended today. Strange feeling. I’m definitely excited to be finished with classes, and excited for things to come, but it is a bit sad to think about this semester ending.

Tomorrow, I will be boarding the Naked Bus (yes) to Dunedin. I will be in Dunedin for almost exactly 24 hours, and then I will get on another bus on Sunday towards middleofnowheresville. I will be spending a week on a lovely farm near Raes Junction. I am excited for living the simple life for a week, playing with animals, and learning a bit about wool carding! After I return, I have a week to study for my 3 final exams, then off on another adventure towards Auckland!

28 5 / 2013

Beautiful day in Christchurch on Sunday.

Typical New Zealand…

27 5 / 2013

Kim uploaded her photos, so there were some shots of me that I can now include.


Group shot!


Unhappy about the poo in the barrels:


Gearing up for the adrenaline rush extreme jump!


This is how I felt afterwards (yes I lost my hat. Kat picked it up for me.)


25 5 / 2013

Yesterday, four friends and I traveled to Adrenaline Forest, just a short drive north of Christchurch. It’s a huge ropes course network in a lovely forest with a view of the ocean.

There are seven different courses, ranging from 2 to 23 meters high. We got a (very brief) safety lecture, then were let loose on the course for the next three hours.

We were required to begin on one of the lower courses, so we started with course number 1.

…then moved onto number 3.

The most awkward of obstacles…


One of the courses was made entirely of zip lines. I was too excited to take any photos.

Kim loves heights!

Lateral logs, you can go die now.

View of the forest from the highest course!

There were some very interesting obstacles on this course.

The scariest part was free-swinging over to this net!

"Barrels," also known as "drag your body through weird animal poop."

Julia is trying not to think about the poop in the barrels.

Kim just doesn’t care.

Awwwww yeah best part.

Sorry there are no photos of me! Passing my camera to someone else while 20 meters in the air didn’t seem like a good idea.

19 5 / 2013

All of my friends in Oberlin are talking about summer plans and being done with finals, and all of my friends who were abroad this semester are now returning to the states. I’ve still got 6 weeks left in this beautiful country. 2 weeks of classes, 3 weeks of finals, and a week of exploring after that. Can’t say I’m complaining… Wish I didn’t have so many papers to write and exams to take though (I guess that’s what happens when you sign up for 5 classes?)

16 5 / 2013

I don’t have class on Thursdays, and today I wandered through the botanic gardens instead of sleeping in.


This is the Peacock Fountain, at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.








I <3 Ginkgo Trees. This one was really fun to climb.


The center of the park featured a beautiful rose garden.









What a beautiful place.


06 5 / 2013

Homemade bread, cheese, and kale soup.

(Sorry I am lacking in NZ scenery photos due to an overload in schoolwork/lack of money/lack of time to go away on the weekend. So you’re stuck with photos of my food.)